On my self-discovery journey, and my study of the enneagram, I have realized I have a “talent” for merging with others. Though this is also similar to a common autistic trait, particularly with females: “camouflaging.” I learned other’s behaviors and copied them to blend in. This is something I’ve done all my life and it appears as something common in autism and in enneagram type 9s, but for different reasons. I relate to both reasonings. In terms of autism, I mask or camouflage certain autistic traits and things that make me stand out and take on traits of people around me or I observe on TV, because I want to fit in and because I otherwise don’t know how to react in a situation. But in terms of enneagram, I merge with other’s opinions and behaviors because they seem good to me too and I don’t want to risk conflict or losing their friendship by saying something that could be potentially controversial.
With people I do not know well, I tend to be very skilled at observing them and end up mimicking their behaviors, almost by default. Though, as I get to know people better, I reveal more information, usually only after they’ve revealed similar information or we are close enough that I feel they will accept me for me and my quirky ways even if they don’t agree with me.
Since I am so good at merging with other people, I tend to end up with separate senses of self. I am a certain way with family vs. friends vs. work colleagues. And to some degree, this is normal. But I feel like the only way to true peace, I need to work to be a more united version of myself. I want to be able to express enough of my personality at work while still being a professional version of that person. I want to be able to share the inner workings of my mind with friends but still having fun with them and listening to them and understanding them. I want to share more of my growth with my family while still being easy going and the person they knew all along. I feel badly sometimes, because I feel like I’m not always 100% honest with people. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely outright lie to people, but I am more likely to withhold information if I feel like it will upset the balance or cause conflict or cause someone not to like me or to think less of me.
As I have gotten older, I have a stronger sense of self but I still find myself wanting to merge with other people’s opinions at times, especially in new friendships. Though, this has lead me to having to establish boundaries later on, when I realize I can not keep up the mask. For example, I usually burn out and can’t maintain the level of socialization that I had initially been able to handle.
Another related thought, I have discovered that I am not a fan of instant messaging. This is a somewhat new realization for me, because I can enjoy instant messaging for short periods of time but prolonged chatting can drain me… until I set boundaries that allow me to exit a conversation to attend to my own needs. Because that is what has happened to me in the past, I delayed attending to my own needs because a long distance partner or friend was chatting to me and sometimes they were going through a rough time which made my issues of needing to eat or clean the house or spend time offline seem less important. But I have learned that my presence matters, my opinions matter, my needs matter. Therefore, I need to take time to care for myself and attend to my needs and do things I want to do, so I can be a better me, a better friend, and a better human being.